Teacher Turnover in Schools

Written by Bothwell Riside

Longtime readers of the website, and listeners to the podcast, will know of Bothwell’s connection to Pakati. As a teacher in an international school in SE Asia, he occasionally publishes articles. As a Friend of Pakati we are delighted to share his work. This latest piece is on the effects of teacher turnover in schools.

Bothwell in Harare.


Teacher turnover refers to the phenomenon where teachers leave their current schools or positions and move to new ones. This can happen for a variety of reasons such as personal, professional, or financial. In many cases, high teacher turnover can have negative effects on the culture of an educational institution.

Douglas N. Harris, Scott J. Adams say that when teacher turnover is unusually high and this is a sign of failure in the education system. This means schools that are riddled with a higher teacher turnover show that there is a fissure somewhere in the school system. A school with a sound staff retention policy is likely to benefit from its current staff whom it is capable of developing professionally.

In order to understand the effects of high teacher turnover, it is important to consider both the advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages of high teacher turnover is that it can bring fresh ideas and perspectives into a school. New teachers can bring new teaching methods and approaches, which can help to revitalize the educational experience for students.

However, high teacher turnover also has several disadvantages. One of the most significant disadvantages is the disruption to the continuity of projects and programs within the school. When teachers leave, the school must spend time and resources finding and training new teachers, which can disrupt the educational experience for students. Additionally, when teachers leave, they take their knowledge, expertise, and relationships with them, which can lead to a loss of institutional memory and a decreased sense of community within the school. It is good for schools to always fight to keep their teachers wherever possible.

Another disadvantage of high teacher turnover is the potential negative impact on student achievement. Research has shown that students who have consistent, stable relationships with their teachers tend to have better academic outcomes than those who experience frequent teacher turnover (Boyd, Goldhaber, & Lankford, 2004). This is because students need time to build relationships with their teachers and establish trust, which can be difficult when teachers are constantly coming and going.

The impact of high teacher turnover can be even more pronounced in international schools. This is because these schools often serve a diverse student population and require a high degree of cultural competency from their teachers. When teachers leave, it can be difficult for the school to find replacement teachers with the same level of cultural competency, which can lead to a decrease in the quality of the educational experience for students.

Furthermore, high teacher turnover in international schools can also affect the recruitment and retention of students. When students and their families see a high teacher turnover rate, they may question the stability and quality of the school, which can lead to decreased enrollment and increased competition for new students.

In conclusion, high teacher turnover can have a significant impact on the culture of an educational institution. While it can bring fresh ideas and perspectives, it can also disrupt the continuity of projects and programs, lead to a loss of institutional memory, negatively impact student achievement, and impact the recruitment and retention of students. In order to mitigate these negative effects, it is important for schools to focus on creating supportive, stable environments for their teachers, and to invest in professional development programs that help to retain high-quality teachers.

References: Boyd, D., Goldhaber, D., & Lankford, H. (2004). The Drawback of Teacher Mobility: Evidence from North Carolina. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 23(2), 267–293. https://doi.org/10.1002/pam.10147


A link to Bothwell’s blog can be found here where you can read his other articles:


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